India urges schools to limit screen time as coronavirus cases near 1m
The Indian government has unveiled a plan to help its citizens deal with the fallout from one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks: limit screen time for the country’s 240m school-age children.
Authorities have urged schools to restrict online classes to two hours a day for children younger than 13 and three hours a day for older students.
They said limits on online education were necessary so that children “do not get overly stretched or stressed or get affected negatively owing to its prolonged use”.
The inability to safely reopen schools has barely figured in public debate as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has tried to persuade people that India is faring better than most other nations even as the number of cases in the country approaches the 1m mark.
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But critics maintain that a lack of adequate testing for a country of 1.3bn people means authorities have a limited picture of the true scale of the health crisis.
The pandemic is expected to widen India’s educational divide, highlighting disparities between families with and without access to digital devices, and the advantages of children whose parents can play a role in helping them learn.
In its new online education guidelines, the ministry for human resource development argued that digital learning “had several advantages over face-to-face classroom teaching” even as it emphasised the need of limiting screen time.
The southern state of Karnataka has already imposed screen-time limits on online education.But some parents, with children at private schools that are running full days of online classes, have challenged the restrictions in court.
Parents claim that the plan violates children’s rights.
A court has stayed the time limits, saying that they did appear to violate children’s fundamental right to education.
Since March, the Indian government has advised that children younger than 10 not go outside at all.
Some parks have signs explicitly barring young children from entry.
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